Why God’s law is not a burden


I am a slow reader. It’s been 11 months since I started my blog with a quote from Thomas Watson’s exposition of the beatitudes, and I’ve just reached the book’s appendix; “His commandments are not grievous.”

I blogged last week on keeping God’s law as an expression of love and am pleased that Watson says the same, amongst seven other reasons why the law is not a burden. As with previous posts, this must be set in the context of the cross to avoid a legalistic reading. Christ died for sin to free us from God’s condemnation and from our lawlessness (Romans 8:1 and Titus 2:14):

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

You have seen what Christ calls for poverty of spirit, pureness of heart, meekness, mercifulness, cheerfulness in suffering persecution, etc. Now that none may hesitate or be troubled at these commands of Christ, I thought good (as a closure to the former discourse) to take off the surmises and prejudices in men’s spirits by this sweet, mollifying Scripture, ‘His commandments are not grievous.’…

1 Why Christ lays commands upon his people. There are two reasons.

(i) In regard of Christ, it is suitable to his dignity and state. He is Lord paramount. This name is written on his thigh and vesture, ‘King of kings’ (Revelation 19: 16). And shall not a king appoint laws to his subjects?…

(ii) In regard of the saints, it is well for the people of God that they have laws to bind and check the exorbitancies of their unruly hearts. How far would the vine spread its luxuriant branches were it not pruned and tied? The heart would be ready to run wild in sin if it did not have affliction to prune it and the laws of Christ to bind it…

Divine commands are not grievous if we consider them first positively in these eight particulars:

(1.) A Christian consents to God’s commands, therefore they are not grievous. ‘I consent to the law that it is good’ (Romans 7: 16). …Thus a gracious heart sees a beauty and equity in the commands of heaven that draws forth consent, and this consent makes them that they are not grievous.

(2.) They are Christ’s commands, therefore not grievous. ‘Take my yoke’ (Matthew 11:29). Gospel commands are not the laws of a tyrant, but of a Saviour…

(3.) Christians obey out of a principle of love, and then God’s commandments are not grievous. Therefore in Scripture serving and loving of God are put together. … Nothing is grievous to him that loves…

(4.) A Christian is carried on by the help of the Spirit, and the Spirit makes every duty easy. ‘The Spirit helpeth our infirmities’ (Romans 8:26). The Spirit works in us ‘both to will and to do’ (Philippians 2: 13). When God enables us to do what he commands then ‘his commandments are not grievous’. …When a gale of the Spirit blows upon the soul, now the sails of the affections move swiftly in duty.

(5.) All Christ’s commands are beneficial, not grievous. …To obey Christ’s laws is not so much of duty as our privilege. All Christ’s commands centre in blessedness. …Divine precepts are to the fleshy part irksome, yet, having such excellent operation as to make us both holy and happy, they are not to be accounted grievous….

(6.) It is honourable to be under Christ’s commands. Therefore they are not grievous. The precepts of Christ do not burden us but adorn us. It is an honour to be employed in Christ’s service….

(7.) Christ’s commands are sweetened with joy and then they are not grievous. …Joy strengthens for duty. ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 7: 10); and the more strength, the less weariness. God sometimes drops down comfort and then a Christian can run in the yoke.

(8.) Gospel commands are finite, therefore not grievous. Christ will not always be laying his commands upon us. Christ will shortly take off the yoke from our neck and set a crown upon our head. There is a time coming when we shall not only be free from our sins, but our duties too…

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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